CARANCHO ('Vulture' or 'a bird of prey; an animal that attack and feed on wounded animals') is a disturbing film from the opening sequences until the end. Before any story begins we are given the information (superimposed over black and white photographs for broken glass and bodies on a street) about the number of automobile accidents and deaths (in excess of 8,000) each year, the leading cause of deaths in Argentina. This grim fact has produced an even more grim industry - ambulance chasing lawyers who follow and even at times stage accidents in order to collect from insurance and scam the real victims and the insurances companies too. This industry requires the participation of doctors, paramedical personnel and police on the take. Every aspect of this horrendous situation is played out in this tersely written (Alejandro Fadel, Martín Mauregui, Santiago Mitre, and Pablo Trapero who also directs). It is a tough film to watch but does serve to alert the audience to a major crime industry that though set in Buenos Aires, Argentina is prevalent probably throughout the world.
Sosa (Ricardo Darín) is a lawyer who has lost his license form some unstated reason who is now working for a 'foundation' that falls into the category discussed above. He not only chases ambulances but also pays men to stage them so that he can collect money based on the fact that he works with the distraught families to win power of attorney for the injured or deceased, giving him access to the insurance money. His bosses are competitive and Sosa is repeatedly attacked physically a la mob style for his failure to perform. Sosa meets Luján (Martina Gusman), a beautiful young doctor who is at the beginning of her career and must work emergency rooms and ride in ambulances to administer to the injured or ill in order to gain experience to become a respected physician. They meet over an accident - Luján is giving aid to a victim and Sosa is planning to use the victim in his crime racket. Both Sosa and Luján seem to have occult senses of responsibility and ethics but life has brought them to a place where they must submerge their standards in order to survive: Luján happens to be a drug addicted 'to sustain the brutality of her work' and Sosa endangers the lives of innocent people to satisfy the bosses to whom he must bow in order to survive. It is this contrast between their passion for each other and their participation in the dark crime of 'caranchos' that provides the push/pull of their relationship, resulting in an ending few will predict.
Both Darín and Gusman are outstanding in very difficult roles, but the supporting cast -Carlos Weber, José Luis Arias, Fabio Ronzano, Loren Acuña, Gabriel Almirón, and José Manuel Espeche - is equally strong in smaller roles. This is a very dark film - in story, in locale (the San Justo region of Buenos Aires), and in the fact that it all takes place at night - but it carries information we all need to note and molds that information into a suspenseful thriller that is so well paced by director Pablo Tapero that every moment is filled with meaning.